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An Officer and a Gentleman – Bristol Hippodrome REVIEW

An Officer and a Gentleman is known and loved as the classic 1980s film starring Richard Gere as Navy pilot heartthrob as he battles in the face of adversity to achieve his dreams. It has now, as of April 2018, been adapted into a stage production, but in my opinion some films are better left untouched.

Let’s start with the positives. The female ensemble working the in factory were gritty, gutsy and fantastic. Their rendition of ‘A Man’s World’ was punchy and powerful, and for me the highlight of the show. The strength in the voices and relationship between Paula and her mother was brilliant and something I connected to.

1. AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. The Company. Photo Manuel Harlan

Paula and her mother were the strongest characters but the couple were let down by weaker cast members. Paula’s love interest Zack was played by Jonny Fines. Despite being very easy on the eyes, his voice was weak and I found his more serious scenes between his father were a little forced, making them fall flat when tension was needed.

I found the choreography mostly unimaginative and rather scruffy, with exception to a section of seated isolated movements by the ensemble (shown in photo below). Same goes for the stage fighting. The costumes were rather let down with cheap, ill-fitting naval uniforms instead of sharp snapping looking sailors. This is maybe something that can be improved upon as the production begins to take in money.

17. AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. The Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan

I am someone who has a big place in my heart for aviation so I expected to be hit hard by the context of the play. The lack of emotion, caused by various factors, led me to feel nothing, even when the young girl got her jet training or Zack swept Paula off her feet in iconic move. Sorry, spoilers…

For me, the biggest problem was the songs. When you are reviewing a musical, it’s pretty damning if the music is the worst part. 80s songs were shoehorned into the production, with little to some relevance to the scenes. The choice of songs undermined the relatively serious plot. Attempting to have an emotional moment and then follow it up with ‘Final Countdown’ or ‘Material World’ made no sense to me.

They stuffed in two more classic hits by having characters sing karaoke, which definitely didn’t happen in the film and had no relevance to the plot. I also disagreed with slowing down the tempo of songs such as ‘Kids in America’ as it felt bizarre and out of place.

3. AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN. Emma Williams 'Paula Pokrifki' and Jonny Fines 'Zack Mayo'. Photo Manuel Harlan

Alas it seemed not everybody agreed with me, as people were cheering and out of their seats by the bows. Filing out I heard comments like, “I felt like a kid again with all those songs” and “I want to watch the film now.” This made me think people were actually applauding their nostalgia rather than the actual production.

Maybe I just don’t get it because of my age. I feel like I have an objective look at the production as someone who isn’t emotionally tied to the songs, story or Richard Gere. To me, if you take away the nostalgia you’re left with a weak piece of theatre.

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